The studio comps consists of an independent studio project which runs from the beginning of fall term through an exhibition in the Perlman Teaching Museum in the second half of spring term. Students register for six credits of Integrative Exercise in fall term. Most of the requirements are fulfilled during fall. The process gives the opportunity to develop art work over a good period of time, with the close advice and support of the studio faculty. The full group of studio faculty conduct a series of individual meetings with students to offer guidance and feedback. Students are also encouraged to work closely with individual faculty members. The department brings in at least one outside examiner to critique student work.

Details about the Studio Art comps process

Comps is both the culmination of your experience as an art student at Carleton and a springboard for developing your identity as an artist. While it involves serious creative activity, it’s also important that you allow yourself time to play — initially to try out ideas that may or may not lead to finished artwork. A rigorous engagement with whatever processes you choose is the main requirement.

The bulk of your time devoted to Comps will be centered around the creation of your art. Ten hours of work per week during comps would be an absolute minimum, and is the basis for our evaluation of your productivity. You are also required to schedule several meetings with faculty throughout the term, arrange your own group critiques, and meet with a visiting artist. As a supplement to your studio work, you are to write an artist’s statement which you will revise as the term progresses.

Critiques and Work-in-Progress Review

You will have a variety of different kinds of feedback and critique opportunities in which to present and discuss your developing work. The following guidelines spell out the required components of the process.

  1. Twice during the first half of the term, faculty will review your progress by taking a look at your work after the 2nd and 5th weeks of the term. You will present sketches, studies, and any other pertinent material in your studio for review. We are not looking for finished work at this time (although if you have completed art work include it too.) We are looking for evidence of engagement in the process.
  2. You are to set up a minimum of three individual meetings with studio faculty — two meetings with your advisor and one with an additional faculty member. You will be notified who your comps advisor is in week 2. Faculty will base selection on your first artist statement. You select and schedule critiques with the faculty members you feel would provide the most help (That could mean someone most familiar with the medium on which you’re focusing, or conversely, someone with a sensibility contrary to your own, who might be more likely to challenge you to think about your work differently). These critiques should be scheduled in advance. They are not just casual conversations.
  3. Small group critiques: You are responsible for organizing groups of 4 or 5 students who will meet to review one another’s work in a semi-formal situation with (if you would like) one or more faculty members participating as well. These meetings will take place sometime during week 6 or 7.
  4. Individual meetings with an outside visiting artist during week 8.

In addition to these required sessions, we strongly encourage you to meet with the faculty whenever you have questions, problems or just want to show us what you are doing and thinking about, and take advantage of one another’s opinions and viewpoints by organizing discussions among yourselves. While we feel this is an important part of Senior Art Comps, ultimately the responsibility — for scheduling, conduct, and content — is yours. Whether you meet as a whole class or in small groups, we believe that students can offer each other a unique brand of criticism and support. One idea is to have a weekly meeting time (say Friday night) during which anyone may present work. This is a great chance to obtain multiple perspectives on your work.

Artist Statements

You are also responsible for an additional written component of comps, in the form of an ongoing 1–2 page artist’s statement that you will revise as your work evolves. The purpose of such a statement is to help clarify your intent, cite influences, and place what you do in the studio in a broader social and art historical context. Don’t think of this as a map or instruction guide for yourself that ties your artmaking to a particular track (unless you find that helpful). Rather, consider it an evolving document of your thoughts about the artmaking process. Your statement should change over the course of the term

Evaluation of Work

Your completed comps should be presented in a coherent fashion, so that faculty can evaluate your efforts over reading days. By “complete” we mean that there should be an adequate amount of resolved work that you feel you could present for exhibition. (This does not mean that you can’t continue to make work and further develop ideas after the end of the term. On the contrary, we encourage you to do so.) We will notify you by the end of the exam period of your status (pass or fail). Please note: students whose work is under-developed by mid-term will be warned that they are in danger of failing comps. The department will make a fairly strict judgment on the passing of comps within the first term. It often happens that a fairly high percentage of students do not pass comps within the first term. Don’t be too discouraged if this happens. You still have time to finish.

If it is determined that not enough work has been completed to pass, or that there is some other significant problem with the work, you will be notified and given clear expectations and deadlines for completing the work during winter or spring. If the work is not resolved to a satisfactory degree by the final deadline date in spring, you will not pass comps and will not participate in the senior exhibit.

Some thoughts about studio art comps

  • When thinking about what you want to focus on for your project, we have found that it is best to concentrate on a medium or combination of media that you are already somewhat, if not intimately, familiar with. Give yourself room to experiment, but don’t try to start from scratch. It is easy to get bogged down in technical problems that can distract from achieving your goals.
  • Take the process seriously, but try not to get hung up with the notion that you have to produce “A Significant Work of Art.” Such thoughts can squelch great little ideas before you have the chance to play around with them and see where they might lead. Trust your intuition, no matter how trivial a thought or gesture might seem at first.
  • This is a major independent project and, more importantly, it is a transitional experience. You will soon be leaving the world of structured assignments, given and evaluated by interested and committed faculty and supported by a network of fellow students. Once you leave Carleton, you may have a private or shared studio, or maybe just a kitchen table. You may live near or with other working artists, or maybe there will be no one who regularly see your work and talk seriously about it with you. You may do work for commissions or for a specific business purpose, or the content and subject matter will be completely up to you (or both). There are many decisions to be made about how to be an artist, and the more you know, the better prepared you will be to make intelligent choices after school.